DEAR READERS: In a recent study about dog trends, lead researcher Kendy Teng from the University of Sydney, Australia, said, "Australians are favoring brachycephalic breeds, dogs with shorter and wider heads, such as the pug and the French bulldog, more than those with longer and thinner heads. Looking at data spanning 28 years, we found that the demand for smaller dogs has increased every year from 1986.
"Veterinarians are concerned about brachycephalic dogs' welfare, as these breeds commonly suffer from breathing difficulties, skin and eye conditions, and digestive disorders. In New Zealand, brachycephalic breeds are number four of the top five dog breeds considered by veterinarians to be unsuitable for continued breeding due to compromised health and welfare. We expect to see vets in Australia treating more dogs with the conditions described.
"This trend is also apparent in the U.K., where bulldogs, boxers and pugs have become increasingly popular in recent years. U.K. kennel club registrations of pugs and bulldogs have climbed from 2004 to 2013, the number of pugs has increased from 1,675 in 2004 to 8,071 in 2013, and French bulldogs also rose from 350 to 6,990. In the U.S., numbers of bulldogs and French bulldogs registered with the American Kennel Club have increased by 69 percent and 476 percent, respectively, in the past decade."
Readers, in my opinion, breeding dogs with extreme forms of the brachycephalic deformity is unethical. Pups' large heads can mean a Caesarian birth and a lifetime of partial asphyxiation, limited exercise tolerance and enjoyment of life, compounded by chronic eye, skin, respiratory and oral cavity infections. They are also susceptible to a host of inherited diseases affecting the heart, joints and other organs and systems. Most airlines will not and should not allow such dogs in cargo holds, where they can suffocate. Regardless of these dogs' appeal and appealing dispositions, those who really love them should stop breeding them, and the informed should never consider purchasing a purpose-bred one, regardless of how adorable the puppies may seem. They make most people smile, but they make me sad and angry.
DEAR DR. FOX: As a quick addendum to the recent letter regarding older animal lovers volunteering at shelters when they don't want to take on the responsibility of owning a pet they may outlive: I, too, am of an age where I am quite aware my pet might outlive me, and I, too, became a volunteer with the cats at our local SPCA.
But I have also adopted a pet from the shelter -- a wonderful older cat whose chances of adoption were less because of age. One never knows, but the odds of me outliving her are now more likely, and I know her last years will be peaceful and easy. It is always terrific to see older animals who often have already known a comfortable family existence being rescued to have that with a new family. Older animals have so much love and appreciation to offer. -- C.K., Annapolis, Maryland
DEAR C.K.: I strongly advise elderly people such as yourself to consider adopting an older animal, as you have done. Many come from people who had to give them up because they were set for assisted living, where no pets are allowed, a situation that is fortunately changing in many facilities. One reader wrote informing that when the time came for her elderly mother to give up her young adopted dog, the family was already prepared, and the grandson took the dog to live with him. Such responsible care shows a respect for life so often lacking in today's world.
BOOK REVIEW: "Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat" by Sandy Robins and Paul Smulson
Between reverence and exploitation, there are realms of human engagement with other animals that span the rainbow bridge of understanding, from the sacred to the secular and the sentimental to the spiritual.
If anthropomorphizing animals -- making them seem more human -- makes them more appealing for some and helps repair this broken bridge, then this book is a winner. Cats, like other creatures, mirror us in how we regard and treat them and how they respond to us. This book may help us see into this mirror with greater clarity and good humor that can spark humility and love.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)